Rossi: Lack of IndyCar qualifying at Texas 'made no sense' - The Race
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Rossi: Lack of IndyCar qualifying at Texas ‘made no sense’

May 3 2021
By Jack Benyon

Alexander Rossi says it “made no sense” that IndyCar didn’t reschedule its rain truncated qualifying session at Texas after he was caught up in a crash before the green flag at the start of the second race.

Rain hit the Fort Worth oval on Saturday delaying practice by over 90 minutes, and under the threat of more rain IndyCar elected to cancel qualifying and set the grid for both races using the championship standings.

That meant a huge gap with no on-track action between the first race of the weekend on Saturday night and the second race of the weekend on Sunday afternoon – more than enough time to fit in a qualifying session.

“The biggest problem I have with all this is that we had an entire day and we’re still setting the grid based on points,” Rossi told NBC. “Plenty of tyres, plenty of opportunity, daylight and weather to qualify. I don’t think this Andretti Autonation Honda should have been starting 15th.

Rossi

“I understand why we did it [cancelled qualifying on Saturday], you want to get the show in, you want to get the race in – I’m all for that.

“It makes no sense not to qualify this [Sunday] morning when there was plenty of time. That’s frustrating.

“Obviously it’s the same for everyone but I feel like for us we definitely have a car that’s above 15th place. It shouldn’t be with guys that maybe don’t have that amount of pace.”

An IndyCar representative told The Race that once qualifying is rained off, there’s no provision for rescheduling it in the rulebook.

At many other events on the calendar, support races take place meaning finding time for that qualifying session would have been difficult.

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The crash at the start of the second race made criticising a lack of qualifying easier. An accordion effect backed up the pack and Pietro Fittipaldi clipped Sebastien Bourdais into a spin, which collected Rossi, Dalton Kellett, Ed Jones and a further collision sent Conor Daly airborne, upside-down, and skating across the front stretch.

What appeared to be a slow start headed by polesitter Scott Dixon, was described as “ridiculous” by Will Power on his radio during the race, while podium finisher Graham Rahal addressed the incident post-race.

“It seemed like a very slow start,” said Rahal. “The pace was like really, really slow, which also adds to it. Guys are kind of eager to go, go, go.”

In response to Conor Daly calling for a review into “too many start crashes” in IndyCar, Rahal replied: “I just think everybody’s different.

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“When Helio is in front, you’re in fourth gear coming to the green. When Dixie is in the front, it’s first gear.

“Everybody is so different, it’s very hard. I don’t know. It’s just very hard to set a rule. A constant pace can be 60 miles an hour, it can be 160. It’s a difficult thing to monitor.”

The Race says

Any crash on an oval immediately heightens tensions just because of the dangers involved. As a side note, once again the IndyCar aeroscreen proved its worth in protecting the drivers from harm.

Rossi is right to point out there was plenty of time to get a qualifying session in, but should IndyCar get into the habit of writing rules for specific races? I don’t think so, in most race weekends there wouldn’t have been time to slot that qualifying in.

I can understand why Texas was a two-day event instead of returning to a three-day event like it was pre-pandemic, but it certainly exacerbated the issue brought about by the rain.

I disagree with Rossi that he didn’t deserve to be in that position, personally. His team made a mistake committing to a three-stop strategy at Barber and then he crashed unnecessarily after a bad pitstop at St Pete.

OK, his car may have been faster on pace in Texas – he finished eighth in the first race – but the rules are the rules and his and the Andretti team’s average to poor performance in the first three races put the team in this position.

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IndyCar could look at setting the grid by the race one finishing order for double-headers affected by rain in the future, but that would have presented a similar issue last weekend as Sebastien Bourdais – a top seven car until he was taken out in race one – would have started at the back. You can’t please everyone in these situations.

As for the start, it did appear incredibly slow. But in Scott Dixon’s defence, do we really want a high-speed restart when crashes have happened on oval restarts recently? That would only reduce reaction time for the drivers, and you might get more incidents like Oliver Askew’s concussion-inducing crash at Indy last year.

It’s tricky to see any logical way to avoid these kind of instances when the pack concertinas. A single-file restart would probably help, but no one wants to see that from an entertainment perspective.

This will be an interesting topic to see if any solutions for the future are presented.

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